Moral Philosophy Can Get You Into Trouble

My favourite branch of philosophy is metaphysics. For those who do not know, metaphysics can probably without too much oversimplification be described as the study of how our perception and knowledge of the universe comes to us. Physics is the study of the physical world - how it works, what it is made of. Metaphysics looks at what is behind the perceived reality. Or more accurately, what is beyond it, since the prefix meta literally means beyond.

There are many different theories of metaphysics, some of them quite weird. Most people are not in the least bit interested in metaphysics. And I have to admit that even though I like the subject, I can not really blame them for thinking as they do. Some of it is quite difficult to get your head around. Triviality can be so much more fun, and more immediately satisfying.

So when you interact as a philosopher with other people, you find yourself straying more and more into the realms of moral philosophy. Such questions as "Is it ever right to tell a lie?", or "Should we allow children in Africa to starve?" are more interesting to most people than, for example, "Does our perception of the world subsist in a priori or a posteriori data?"

For me it is absolutely clear which are the most interesting questions.

Besides, moral philosophy can often get you into trouble. People tend to read their own agendas into what you are saying. This happens particularly in discussions on the internet. People try to "read between the lines", in other words, they try to find out what your underlying, unspoken reason is for saying what you say, or for bringing up a question. Maybe you are even doing that now? Maybe you are thinking, Why is filosofia talking about this? What is her ulterior motive?

Usually people conclude that you must be trying to sell them something, and that you are at any moment going to start your "pitch". Or even worse, especially in moral philosophy, they sometimes think you are going to start trying to convert them to your religion. Even more if you actually happen to mention the words religion or god, which, after all, are sometimes likely to crop up when discussing issues of morality.

It then can happen that a person replies in the discussion, not to what you actually said, but to what they thought you said, which can lead to some amusing and quite heated, but ultimately pointless, exchanges.

I usually say to people, let's try to just concentrate on the words that are said, and not look for hidden meanings all the time. But a lot of the time it does no good. People think you mean something by it.

So that's why I prefer metaphysics.


wwwaphorismscom said...

Harvey Avatar is a big proponent of metaphysics. You might enjoy his blog. I love philosophy, but I like to express my philosophical thoughts poetically. That's why I write aphorisms. Sound and sense are equally important to me. Otherwise the ideas get too dry and abstract. I love this line of Pessoa's: "Believe me, chocolate is the best metaphysics." Not necessarily true, but it's funny.

Sofia said...

Yes I've seen that one by Harvey Avatar. I will try to read yours tomorrow but at this moment my eyes are heavy. Thank you for your very kind comment.

rewarded for being me said...

Another great post.
Thanks for your work

Stella said...

I've been reading some of your articles and your raise some intersting points. Although I've never read about metaphysics, but I do think a lot about life, perception, the concept of truth and morality. so I'll be back to read more.

Sofia said...

Thank you both for your kind comments. x

ghenessa said...

this quite interesting thanks for sharing.

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aunullah said...

about the blog: I find this blog incidentally by random blogwalking, nice blog with interesting posts. I like it and planning to visit it regularly. May be you can add "archive" widget to the blog to help newcomers like me to see your older posts and read what suits their interest. Clicking "older post" on-by-one is quite time-consuming, only to see the next post doesn't interest you.

about this post: People tend to take "moral philosophy" more personally than, say, metaphysics or even more, logic :) because it is the closest branch of philosophy to the real, day-to-day life of people. It's quite common to say that ethics or moral philosophy is practical philosophy, contrasted to metaphysics or epistemology which is called theoretical philosophy--although actually all are theoretical in nature.
But, actually, we can't avoid having a "moral philosophy". Your standpoint in, say, a metaphysical or epistemological problem determine, or at least lead to, another standpoint in ethics.

Sofia said...

To aunullah:

Thank you for your positive comments and suggestions. As you can see, the blog now contains an archive!

Your remark about how a person's viewpoint on metaphysics and epistemology determine their viewpoint on ethics has caught my attention. Can this be always true, I wonder? I would say at the very least it's highly debatable.

In the case of those who live the "unexamined life" (and this probably constitutes about 99% of the population), I would agree your assertion is probably true, since these people have almost no control over their own opinions. But surely a philosopher would be able to have viewpoints that, on the face of it, appeared mutually contradictory, while nonetheless agreeing in an as yet unexplained way?

Besides, would it not be possible to deliberately adopt standpoints that are logically inconsistent?

Jaideep Sobti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tor Hershman said...

"I usually say to people, let's try to just concentrate on the words that are said, and not look for hidden meanings all the time. But a lot of the time it does no good. People think you mean something by it."

That made moi simile.
You are wise beyond your butterfly wings.

Stay on groovin' safari,

The Crow said...

Hehe: a good laugh.
Whatever anyone accuses me of, is a good indication of what they themselves are most guilty of.
Unless, of course, it is something good.
In which case they are being very perceptive.
Not that I am often accused of good things :)
But human interactions can be SO tiresome, can't they!
It helps to remember that what most people say, means as little as whatever meaning they assign to whatever you say.